My college football coach at Bentley University was a guy by the name of Peter Yetten. He coached there for nearly 30 years and was the most intense and competitive SOB around. He was well-respected, grizzled, successful, loyal, no-nonsense and didn’t hesitate to speak his mind. He had a saying for kids when they made a poor play or were late to practice: “You never had it.” It didn’t make sense a lot of the time, but everyone knew what he meant and that it wasn’t a compliment. He meant, “Your heart’s not in it” or “I expect more.”
“You never had it.” Was he right or were we chasing different dreams?
When I was in college, I was a four-year varsity letterman and we had a record of 44-4. Winning was everything. I was a role player for the Falcons, served on the Student Athlete Advisory Council, was somewhat of a team comedian (I once wore a mullet wig under my helmet) and was the travel seatmate for our team captain and classic friend Tim Feeney.
The highlights of my college playing days were three killer interceptions, two national playoff games, sick pre-game speeches, ridiculous after parties, a blown out knee and surgery junior year, an average of 20 tackles a season and making the best friends a guy could find. I wasn’t exactly an All-American, but I contributed in every possible way I could and enjoyed the ride.
Needless to say, my glory days playing football were definitely my high school years at Manchester, New Hampshire’s West high school. I got to college and quickly realized for the first time in my life that I was a white boy from NH. I couldn’t jump. I ran a 4.8 40-yard dash. I was only 5’9″ and my metabolism was catching up with me. I wasn’t going to the NFL. I learned this at the first team meeting when I looked around the room.
In Coach Yetten’s terms, I never had it.
So what did I do? I went and got a job and started chasing a different dream. When my teammates were spending summers lifting, working out, lifeguarding, landscaping or mundane construction work, I was interning at marketing and technology companies. I started my professional career when I was 18, following the NCAA campaign motto that “the majority of us will go pro in something other than sports.”
I made the decision that I could hustle early in my business life and get a head start on my peers. Looking back, Coach Yetten was right when it came to college ball. I was pretty burned out from 10 years of the sport, knew that I was never going to get paid to play and needed to refocus my energy somewhere else.
I stuck it out for four years, but underachieved for sure on the field. I guess I have Coach Yetten to thank for not B.S.’ing me, shooting straight and motivating me to make choices, set goals, work hard and don’t settle. The “real world” offered a good place to prove to myself that I actually did “have it” and I’ve been committed ever since.